Twenty-five years ago, when it was decided to publish an English Sunday newspaper, that decision was not moved by any sense of special mission or great vision, though, I, among others, believed there to be room for another newspaper to provide a forum for the expression of divergent views and their discussion. The American newspaper USA Today was a model I had envisaged, both in terms of appearance and content.
The immediate reasons for publishing the Sunday Times were prosaic. The publishing rights of the newspapers of the Times Group, then in liquidation, had been purchased earlier and ‘The Times’ was yet a familiar name in households taking an English language paper.
I also had unutilized machine time. As a British publisher friend once told me ‘Web presses are hungry beasts.’
Again, an English language newspaper in tandem with the Irida Lankadeepa, then already a publication, seemed to make sense in terms of distribution of costs and in providing advertisers with a more attractive proposition than confining their message to one lonely, weekly voice.
Decisions are only as good as the people who implement them. I have been fortunate. Vijitha Yapa agreed to be editor of the relaunched Sunday Times (originally the Sunday illustrated of the Times Group). Vijitha led by example, initiating news stories and features, and involving himself in every aspect of producing the newspaper, including the rather archaic paste-up system which we used then to make up our pages, limited as we were with financial constraints.
He was bewildered (and secretly infuriated, I think) by my mutilating good news stories, ever erring on the side of caution, quite unlike his previous publisher, who had no qualms about saying what had to be said and indeed relishing it being said as pungently as possible.
When Vijitha left the Sunday Times, believing that his continued editorship could jeopardize the future of the newspaper from unfriendly Government fire, there was a brief period of panic, until Sinha Ratnatunga accepted the post of editor and the challenge to move the newspaper on, under his stewardship, to be the one read by every member of the family on Sunday. Under that stewardship, deceptively laconic in style, but quite like an unseen force of nature, the Sunday Times continues to thrive in his care and in the hands of his dedicated team. My thanks and good wishes to them and to all our readers today.
June 3, 2012